The most important tip I can give you on New Zealand local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting New Zealand, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in New Zealand
Outside of the larger cities, restaurants can be hard to come by. New Zealand does not have a culture of going out to eat: meeting for dinner at a restaurant is typically something that is done only on special occasions such as birthdays, or on romantic dates, although eating out is becoming more common. New Zealand has a distinctive cafe culture, with arguably some of the best espresso on the planet.
Cafes often have excellent food, serving anything from a muffin to a full meal. In smaller towns food is always available at the local pub/’hotel’/’bistro’, although the quality tends to be of the burger-and-chips variety. Fast food/convenience food is fairly easy to come by. Petrol stations often sell pies that can be heated in-store. Fast food is available everywhere, most of the larger chains are represented. There are a number of local burger chains as well, Burger Wisconsin and Burger Fuel are both worth trying. Fish and chips are a local speciality.
The fish is often extremely good quality, often supplied by local fishermen. The style is somewhat different to the English style: chips tend to be crisper, and vinegar is never used as a dressing. The menu consists of battered fish portions deep fried in oil together with chunky cut potato chips as well as a range of other meats, seafood, pineapple rings and even chocolate bar. A good meal can often be had for under $5, a bad one for the same price. Cuisine New Zealand’s cultural majority, mainly British, do not have a definitive and recognisably distinct cuisine that differs markedly from the traditional British cuisine.
However there are a number of small differences Roast kumara – the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) roasted in the same manner as potatoes and often served instead of or alongside. May also be deep fried like potato chips and known as kumara chips – nice served with sour cream but rarely done well as kumara cooks at a different temperature than potatoes, so it needs a skilled chef for the dish to be done perfectly. Pavlova, or pav, a cake of whipped egg whites baked to have a crusty meringue-like outside but soft in the middle, topped with whipped cream and decorated with sliced fruit. The dessert is also common in Australia, there is debate between the two countries as to where it was first invented, but it is generally thought to be Australia. ANZAC biscuits – Plain hard biscuits made primarily from oatmeal bound with golden syrup.
Originally made for and by ANZAC troops during the First World War. Also found in Australia. Pies – New Zealanders eat large numbers of non-flakey-pastry meat pies containing things like beef, lamb, pork, potato, kumara, vegetables, and cheese. Some companies now market ranges of “gourmet” pies and there is an annual competition for the best pie in a variety of catagories. Kiwifruit – A plum-sized green fleshed fruit, with fine black seeds in the flesh, originating from China, selectively bred in New Zealand, and first known to the home gardener as the Chinese Gooseberry. Now commercially farmed, with production centred on Te Puke but in many orcharding areas. Slices often served on pavlova. Known by its full name of kiwifruit and never shortened to kiwi in New Zealand, as kiwi are endangered birds or New Zealanders. Whitebait – The translucent sprat or fingerlings of native freshwater fish species that migrate from spawning in the sea each year.
After being caught in coastal river mouth set or hand nets during November/December, this highly sought after delicacy is rushed to all ends of the country. Served in a fried pattie made from an egg based batter. May be seasonally available from a local fish and chip shop. Is served without gutting or deheading. M?ori also have a distinctive cuisine:
The hangi or earth oven is the traditional way that M?ori cook food for large gatherings. Meat, vegetables and sometimes puddings are slowly steam-cooked for several hours in a covered pit that has previously been lined with stones and had a hot wood fire burn down in it. Kaimoana (literally: sea food) – particularly shellfish gathered from inter-tidal rocks and beaches as well as crayfish (rock lobster) and inshore fish caught on a line or with nets.
Species such as paua (blackfoot abalone) and toheroa have been overfished and gathering restrictions are strictly enforced, while green mussels are commercially grown and sold live, or processed, in supermarkets. WARNING While it is extremely common to see people collecting shellfish, crustaceans and other kaimoana, there are a number of rules to be aware of, eg: minimum sizes or daily catch limits, which are usually posted on signs at the approaches to the collecting area.
These rules are strictly enforced. If in doubt, check with a local. Rules may be seasonal or all-year catch limits set by the Ministry of Fisheries, or they may be that certain areas are reserved solely for tangata whenua (local M?ori iwi), or a combination. At times, areas may have a prohibition for health reasons. In addition to the above, New Zealand cuisine has taken a decidedly international turn over the past decade. Sushi is becoming increasingly popular (albeit in a somewhat different form to the Japanese original), as are many of the cuisines of the pacific rim.
What to Drink in New Zealand
New Zealanders have a reputation for enjoying their beer. Although there are now only three major breweries, there are many regional brands, each with their own distinctive taste and staunch supporters. Take care when and where you indulge in public. New Zealand has recently introduced liquor ban areas–that means alcoholic drinks cannot be consumed or even carried in some streets, such as city centres and popular beaches, at certain times of the day or night. Police can instruct you to empty bottles and arrest you if you do not comply.
The New Zealand wine industry has developed into a significant export industry. New Zealand is now known as one of the top producers of Sauvignon Blanc. The Hawkes Bay region is well known for its Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and more recently Viognier varieties. Marlborough is the largest wine producing region and famous for its Sauvignon Blanc. Waipara in North Canterbury specialises in Riesling and Pinot Gris. Further south in Central Otago, Pinot Noir is produced in the most concentrated of styles. Many vineyards now offer winery tours, wine tasting and sales from the vineyard.
The minimum legal purchase age for alcohol in New Zealand is 18, and can only be supplied to under-18s via a parent or legal guardian. It is universal policy for bars and retailers to ask for photo identification from any patron who looks under the age of 25, and the only forms of identification accepted are a valid New Zealand or overseas passport, a valid New Zealand driver licence, or a valid Hospitality Association of New Zealand (HANZ) 18+ card. Coffee houses are a daytime venue in many of the larger cities and tourist destinations.
The cafe culture is notable in the CBD of Wellington, where many office workers have their tea breaks. Most coffee styles, cappuccino, latte, espresso/short black, long black, flat white, vienna etc, are usually available. Flat whites are probably the most popular. Cappuccinos are usually served with a choice of cinnamon or chocolate powder sprinkled on top. Its usual to request which one you want. Fluffies are a small frothed milk for children, sprinkled with chocolate powder.
Bottled water, both flavoured and unflavoured, is available in most shops. Not that there is anything wrong with the tap water, it is just that some town supplies are drawn from river water and chlorinated. Most town supplies are fluoridated. If you do not want to pour your money down the drain, fill your own water bottle from the tap, unless you find it is too heavily chlorinated for your taste.
Tap water in New Zealand is regarded as some of the cleanest in the world; it is safe to drink from in all cities, most come from artesian wells or freshwater reservoirs – however, some are from rivers which can be chlorinated to be made safe but do not taste very nice. Some of the water in Auckland comes from the Waikato river, a long river that has its source in Lake Taupo in the centre of the North Island. But by the time it reaches Auckland, it has been treated so that the quality is no worse than that of the Thames in London or the Hudson in New York. Auckland water is also drawn from run-off reservoirs in the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges.
Tap water in places such as Christchurch and Hastings is not chlorinated at all as it is drawn from the pure artesian aquifers of the Canterbury and Heretaunga plains. L & P or Lemon & Paeroa is a sweet carbonated lemonade style drink said to be “world famous in New Zealand”. It is a sold in a brown plastic bottle with a yellow label similar to the traditional brown glass bottles it used to be sold in. Generally one for the kids or parties as it mixes quite well with whisky. It is now manufactured in Auckland by Coca-Cola.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.